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Campaigners converge on Westminster to stop the loss of Britain's community pubs

Added: Thursday, June 6th 2013

More than 120 supporters of the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign rallied in Westminster on Wednesday, sending a strong message to MPs and government ministers that the time for pubco reform is now. Speakers at the rally featured MPs from across the political spectrum and representatives from the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign. On the day of the rally, 109 MPs had already signed up in support.

 Greg Mulholland, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group and Coordinator of the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign, kicked off the event by imploring MPs to act now in order to save  British pubs, which are closing at a rapidly accelerated rate of 26 per week. The campaigners included many licensees, CAMRA members, and members of the general public concerned for the welfare of their local pubs.

Supporting speakers included Shadow Small Business Minister Toby Perkins, former Business Select Committee Chairman Peter Luff, who chaired the report that recommended the market rent-only option, Save the Pub Group Vice Chair and member of the Business Select Committee Brian Binley, Save the Pub Group Vice Chair Grahame Morris, Chief Executive of the Campaign for Real Ale Mike Benner, licensee Dawn Hopkins, Saskia Walzel of the Federation of Small Businesses, and founder of the Fair Pint campaign Simon Clarke.

 Hopkins, who runs the Norwich Bear Brewing Company, presented the stories of licensees who were unable to attend the event. Many of the licensees did not even have the means or ability to leave work for the hour-long rally demonstrating a real need for reform. As a survey of 600 licensees conducted by CGA Strategy revealed on Wednesday, three in five licensees tied to tenanted pub companies with more than 500 pubs earn less than £10,000 a year, while only 25% of free-of-tie licensees earn less than £10,000 a year.

 The Fair Deal for Your Local campaign is a coalition of 10 organisations including the Federation of Small Businesses, the Forum of Private Business and Campaign for Real Ale and is calling on the government to give local pubs a fair deal through much-needed reform of the tied model operated by large pub owning companies. The fundamental problem is that some of the large pub-owning companies are taking far more than is fair or sustainable from pub profits, therefore making it difficult for many licensees to make a living and causing widespread pub closures.

 The government is committed to introducing a statutory code of practice for the large companies that will enshrine in law the principle that the tied licensee should not be worse off than a free of tie licensee. The Fair Deal for Your Local campaign believes that the only way to ensure fairness is to include in the new code an option for the tied landlords of large companies to pay rent only to the pub owning company.A consultation on the issue by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills ends on 14June 2013 and the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign is urging people to support their local pubs and back a fair deal.

 Save the Pub Group Chair and Campaign Coordinator of Fair Deal for Your Local, Greg Mulholland said: “The enthusiasm and energy at the hugely successful Save the Pub Rally yesterday affirmed the fact that licensees are tired of getting squeezed by the unfair business practices of the large pubcos. The broad cross-party support of the campaign makes a strong case for the government to take this issue seriously and act immediately. Great Britain is renowned for its rich pub history and it is a shame that local pubs are being driven out of business at an astonishing rate by the practices of large pubcos, wreaking havoc on families and communities across the country.

 "The time is now for the government to take this issue seriously and introduce a statutory code of practice for large pub-owning companies to stop the unsustainable overcharging. Inaction will only result in more pub closures and further damage to local economies. I encourage anyone who supports a fair deal for their local pub to write to their MP and respond to the consultation by 14 June, supporting the third option for pubco licensees to be offered a choice between a tied option and a market rent-only option.” 

Dawn Hopkins, licensee of the Norwich Bear Brewing Company said: "The rally showed the amazing support there is for this campaign across political parties, with licensees and brewers, and with the general public and it was truly inspiring to hear such passionate support for our pub industry and our publicans. There is no doubt that a market rent only option for tied lessees will not only help to stop our pubs closing at a rate of 26 a week, it will also give a huge boost to our small brewers who will have access to so many more outlets.

“But most of all it will be literally life-changing for so many tied lessees and allow them to earn a decent living at last.  On behalf of the licensees I represent I would like to say thank you to everyone involved in Fair Deal for Your Local and for giving us all a much needed voice.”